One of out-of-staters' most common misconceptions about legal cannabis is that they can smoke it anywhere. They can't, of course. In fact, four years after retail cannabis stores first opened for business in Colorado, there was virtually nowhere in Denver that anyone could legally consume cannabis, outside of a private home or private party. That changed this month, however, when the Coffee Joint started allowing social cannabis consumption, sparking the beginning of a new kind of business in town — but is that spark going to catch fire?
In 2016, Denver voters approved an initiative to allow certain businesses to apply for cannabis consumption licenses. The optimism of those would-be businesses was tested several times as the city wrestled with regulations, and it took over a year before the Coffee Joint was able to open for social consumption. But the important part is that it did, making history as the country's first fully licensed and regulated cannabis lounge.
While there have been a few private clubs sprinkled around the state that allow pot consumption upon membership, they're largely unregulated, walk a thin line with local law enforcement, and are off the beaten path, making them difficult to access for average and novice users. The Coffee Joint, owned by a group that co-owns the dispensary next door, provides a social experience that's supposed to be different, selling customers small drinks and snacks while they consume cannabis that they must bring in to the licensed establishment.
This might conjure up an image of a heady cafe in Amsterdam with pot brownies and bongs at the tables, but that's not how things works in Denver.
But you won't find out how things work at the Coffee Joint — you won't even be allowed to enter — until you sign a waiver and provide the name of an emergency contact. I know the Coffee Joint wants to cover its ass, but c'mon, guys. This is overkill. Isn't it time we grew up?
Because of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, every business that gets a Cannabis Consumption Establishment license in Denver can only allow electronic vaporization and edibles consumption indoors. Smoking is allowed if it's in a private area outside, but the Coffee Joint doesn't have a back yard, so you're stuck with vaping. That's not the end of the world, but be prepared, as only e-nails are currently provided for free. Guests must bring their own dab rigs and vaporizers, and the Coffee Joint is still trying to work with the city to allow the rental of vaporizing equipment. On the plus side, if you want to bring in your Volcano or any other desktop vaporizer, that's totally fine.
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The city's rules aren't the Coffee Joint's only limitations. The spot at 1130 Yuma Street is just south of 12th Avenue and east of I-25 in an industrial section of town with little space to park and not much foot traffic.
Not surprisingly, my visit to the Coffee Joint yesterday afternoon was very quiet. Aside from a man who came in to apply for a job, I was the only guest in the place for about an hour. I'd come somewhat ill-prepared, with flower and no vaporizer for it, but luckily I had a hash pen with me. An employee was still putting up decorations and organizing the reception area as I chilled out in a conference room made for future private events. Free CBD isolate was available for dabs (a nice touch for anyone who gets too anxious from cannabis), and there were a few books on the table — but the space is still pretty sterile.
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The Coffee Joint is still settling in, but in the meantime, it's hard to imagine anyone hanging out here without getting some garage vibes from the ping-pong table, fridge and epoxy flooring in the back room. I enjoyed the atmosphere, since it reminded me of sessions in friends' garages before their parents came home, but I could see how it might turn some highfalutin' consumer away.
As the first — and, currently the only — licensed pot lounge in Denver, the Coffee Joint's inevitably going to attract plenty of opinions. I left thinking that it had the potential to be the coolest, most chill-as-fuck workplace in a city full of chill-as-fuck workplaces: The wi-fi, water and first cup of coffee are all free, and it's only $5 to enter the place. (It's free if you've purchased anything from the pot shop next door.) And you can puff all you want as blues and oldies play on the radio...as long as that puffing is electric.
There are many euphemisms for "smoking weed," but my favorite was coined by Devin the Dude, who prefers to call it "sippin' coughee." It's much easier to ask a friend to sip coughee in public than puff on some herb, but only those who listened to the Dude would recognize the phrase. Now, thanks to the Coffee Joint, you can ask friends to kill two birds...and get stoned.